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Instead of localised lockdowns, Israel will impose curfews in 40 red zones where coronavirus is spreading fast, with daily infections reaching an all-time record. As of Monday, residents of the designated areas won’t be able to leave home from 7pm-5am. Gatherings of more than 10 people in closed spaces and of more than 20 in open spaces will be prohibited, and schools will be closed. “I know these restrictions are not easy but in the existing situation, we have no choice,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. Most red locations are Arab and ultra-Orthodox towns or neighbourhoods. The u-turn from localised closures announced by Netanyahu on Thursday came after massive pressure from furious mayors. They said in a letter they felt “humiliated” by him and vowed, “We will not co-operate” with lockdowns in singled-out communities. Government-appointed coronavirus czar, Ronni Gamzu, said on Sunday he had come under “artillery fire” over his traffic light plan, which distinguishes between green, yellow and red cities – with likely closures in the worst-hit red zones. Arabs make up 20 per cent of Israel’s 9.2 million citizens and the ultra-Orthodox account for 22 per cent. Large weddings and other mass gatherings in violation of health ministry restrictions documented in both sectors have reportedly played key roles in spreading the virus. But Gamzu acknowledged crowded living conditions had also contributed. Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and the walled Old City’s Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian quarters, therefore also have high infection rates. Daily coronavirus infections in Israel reached an all-time high last week with more than 3000 new cases within 24 hours last Wednesday. More than 1500 new cases were confirmed on Saturday, health officials said. Of an overall 130,000 COVID-19 cases confirmed since the pandemic reached Israel in early 2020, 102,462 have recovered and 1012 died. Some 447 are defined as being in serious condition, of whom 127 are on respirators. Australian Associated Press

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